Traumatic Art. Gibellina and Re-Semanticization of its Ruins
In January 1968, the town of Gibellina, in Sicily, was hit by a violent earthquake. The resulting devastation was so severe that central government authorities prohibited the inhabitants of Gibellina from returning to their homes, forcing them to move «en masse» to a different location. In attempting to reconstruct the different aspects of this event, including both the symbolic and physical aspects, it is interesting to note how the scene of the disaster has come to be considered. In the aftermath of an earthquake, the ruins generally embody not only a shared sense of loss, but also individual and collective memories that nd articulation in and around the devastated spaces, helping to regenerate memory. In this case study, a double subtraction is incorporated in Burri’s Cretto, which physically and symbolically replaces the old town of Gibellina, with all the evocative and semantic power of a monumental artwork. And it has had a decisive effect on the ways in which this disastrous event has become part of the history of the community and, consequently, of their collective memory. The work collectively stops the clock at the very moment of the destruction, which it reiterates «ad in nitum». This process of external re-semanticization has serious repercussions on the way in which the people involved attempt to build up an image of their identity: they appear to be and talk about themselves as being «trapped» by the identifying moment of the earthquake, in exactly the same way as the remnants of their old town.
Keywords: Collective Trauma; Disaster; Collective Memory; Gibellina; Cretto.